Panama 2009

When we left Washington there was 20 inches of snow on the ground. The Amtrak auto train had been running about 4 hours late each day due to debris on the tracks south of DC. On the morning we were to leave the Amtrak website reported that the train was due to leave at 4PM - on time. However, the same website indicated that the train coming from Florida to DC was not due to arrive until 2:30PM. This train then turns around and heads back to Florida. Since it takes 2 hours to unload the cars on the train there was no way the southbound train we were taking was going to leave on time at 4PM. When we arrived at the Amtrak station in Lorton the line of cars waiting to be checked in and loaded was blocking traffic in all directions at the exit to Interstate 95. The train did not leave until almost 8PM that night - 4 hours late.

Photo: The cars line up for the autotrain. The last car on the left is our car.

The annual Fisher Family trip to Panama was to be from December 24th until December 31st allowing us to celebrate New Year's Eve in Miami. All the Fisher family (totaling 26 this year) arrived on time in Miami for our flight to Panama. It took off on time but 45 minutes into the flight the pilot announced that there was some engine problem and we were heading back to Miami. He then shut off one engine and we traveled back to Miami at what appeared to be a speed of 10 MPH. Fortunately, the weather was fine and we made it back and landed with many emergency vehicles lining the runway. We learned later that the pilot in order to land safely had to turn the bad engine back on - something about the plane flipping over with only one engine on when he reversed the engine to brake. We also learned that 1.) The engine had been written up as bad on a prior maintenance log and 2.) you normally cannot fly on one engine for over 30 minutes!! SCARY!!!!!

Photo: The Fisher family in Miami Airport waiting for shuttle bus to hotel.

American Airlines was not able to fly us all to Miami until Saturday - 2 days later so we missed 2 days of vacation although we did get to spend two days in Miami. The hotel in Panama agreed to extend our stay in Panama for the 2 days we missed - something they did not have to do. There were no flights available for us so some of us went home as planned on New Year's eve - missing a full two days of vacation and some stayed for one extra night. Morgan and Ita have to get back to DC but Brenan, Dana, Hynda and I celebrated New Years in Panama.

Photo: Brenan and the Queen with her cousin Kim and her twins Mika and Alec wait for the plane at the airport after our two day delay.

Photo: The view from our 8th floor room of the many pools at the Breezes Resort in Panama where we stayed. The area to the far left was where the nightly entertainment was. It was loud and some nights did not end until 2 or 3 in the morning. Some of us had rooms right above the bandstand and it was hard to sleep at night.

Photo: The view of the Breezes Resort from the beach - our building was on the left. There were not enough huts and umbrellas for shade and people came down at 5 AM in the morning to stake out a Tiki Hut shade spot. The hotel had a few umbrellas and people began to take them up to their rooms at the end of the day so they would have them the next day.

El Valle

One of our day trips was to El Valle. The guidebook indicated that one of the largest markets in all of Central America was located there and was only on Sunday. The hotel also informed us that there was a nice waterfall and a thermal spring located just outside El Valle. The market was open everyday and was very small.

Photo: The family at the waterfall. It costs $3.50 and they gave us a walking stick when we entered. We assumed the stick indicated that the walk would be difficult. It turned out to be about a 10-minute walk and quite an easy stroll.

Photo: The group crosses one of the foot bridges that we walked on to get to the waterfall.
The entrance fee to the thermal baths was $1.00. For this price you got to put mud on your face, let it dry for 30 minutes, clean it off in a luke warm shower and then sit in a rather disgusting luke warm pool for as long as you wanted.

Photo: The King and Queen, Matt and Dana opted to put mud on our face. Morgan, Ita and Brenan did not. Of the rest of the Fisher family who went none of them choose to get dirty.

Photo: The King's mud is almost dry and ready to be cleaned off.

Photo: The Queen is almost dry.

Photo: Matt and Dana look like warriors about to go into battle.

Photo: In El Valle our bus driver let us off at this restaurant where we had a one of the best meals we had in Panama. The food at Breezes was just OK.